Amazon Business has reported more than $1 billion in annual sales, and with the news that it has extended its Prime free two-day shipping model to its B2B business, industrial distributors have once again been put on notice of the e-tailer’s intentions for their markets.
But forget Amazon for a moment. The truth is: You can’t out-Amazon Amazon (h/t to Seth Godin).
Flip that on its head, and realize that (at least right now) Amazon can’t out-you you, either, when it comes to the deep knowledge you hold in your organization. And how you translate that expertise online will play a critical role in your long-term success.
While I’m focusing on distribution in this blog, an area of expertise for 3 Aspens Media, other B2B organizations can learn from what’s going on in this industry. Actually, I’m sure many can relate. Amazon has had widespread impact.
But it’s important to put things into context. As one of our clients like to say, Amazon doesn’t sell. They don’t care about the product. What Amazon does well is help people buy. Amazon’s is a customer-centric platform in that regard. And while they may have set the standard for that efficiency, that’s not all customers are looking for. Many customers want you to help them do their jobs better.
Build a website that caters to that need. Does your website reflect the kind of relationship you have or want to build with your customers? If you are the place your customers turn to for technical questions or service, is that expertise clear as day through videos, blogs, case studies and other downloads on your website? As I wrote about recently for Modern Distribution Management (How Distributors Can Differentiate Online), distributors are often more concerned about e-commerce functionality than they are about the front end of their website where their story is told. This mindset needs to shift.
In that shift, content is critical.
I’m a big fan of this article from successful entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, who writes that never before have brands and consumers had the ability to create and consume content at scale. You no longer need to spend thousands of dollars on media and marketing. You can take a video with your smartphone (client AgoNow does this well, creating one-minute clips in their warehouse); build a library of technical resources on your website; and produce ongoing blogs on trends important to your customers. Social media and email let you distribute that straight to your customers: no middleman required. To do it right requires time, consistent attention and patience, but the rewards can be great.
As Vaynerchuk says:
“If you don’t start thinking like a media company and prioritizing brand along with content, you are going to lose. This is the way the world works. This is where the attention currently is. Content is the cost of entry.”